MUMBAI, INDIA — Varsha Ved is an Eye Donation Counselor (EDC) at KBH Hospital in Mumbai, India. She has been doing counseling work since 2006, having been inspired to dedicate her life to this work after she had her own sight restored. In 2000, Varsha was the recipient of two successful cornea transplants following a progressive loss of her vision over many years that left her completely blind.
Prior to her transplants, Varsha was unable to take care of her husband and two children as her sight failed. She couldn’t work, was totally dependent on the kindness of others and horribly depressed. She had almost given up hope when she learned about the possibility of cornea transplantation.
During her healing process, Varsha prayed to the dynamic goddess, Devi, who is both the creator and slayer of worlds. She carried a photograph of the goddess around with her because, as her vision became more and more clear, it was the face of Devi she wanted to see. Varsha said that when she finally saw the goddess’s face, she was so overcome with joy that she vowed to devote the rest of her life to the cause of eye donation.
Varsha’s experience of having lived as a blind person makes her a uniquely qualified and passionate advocate for corneal donation. She can speak with great compassion and humility to families who have just lost a loved one and who may be considering a donation. Especially in India, where taboos around organ donation are still prevalent, Vasha is powerful proof of the transformative power of donation.
A typical day includes monitoring the morgues for potential candidates, meeting with grieving families, sharing her personal story, all with the intention of gaining their consent for cornea donation. Varsha hears often about the fears and the religious stigma that persists around donation and is working tirelessly to educate and shift those attitudes.
She tells the families that if they donate the cornea of their deceased loved on, then that person will live on in the eyes of another. Their loved one has the uncanny opportunity of a second chance at life. Varsha’s personal story and her knowledge of about the procedure are powerful tools in helping to create a culture of donation in an area of the world that needs it most.
Varsha says the second most gratifying part of her job is meeting people who are at first skeptical, but who then come to understand the philosophical and spiritual value of donation and have a change of heart. And the most gratifying part? Seeing with her own eyes another person regain their sight.
Photography by Toni Cervantes